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Green Chemistry and Computational Chemistry
2022, 385-402

Frontiers in green radiochemistry: New optimized quantum approach to laser separation of isotopes and transmutation of radioactive waste

Alexander V. Glushkova,b, Olga Y. Khetseliusa,b

Mathematics Department, Odessa State Environmental University, Odessa, Ukraine.

Abstract

This chapter aims at highlighting how green chemistry principles are being incorporated into radiochemistry, by presenting a selective review of latest novel trends and conceptions in modern theoretical radiochemistry and their interfaces with green chemistry. The chapter reviews some of the most promising approaches for the processing and transmutation of radioactive elements at industrial level, after processing spent nuclear fuel. The use of gamma neutron transmutation methods, as well as methods involving selective laser separation of heavy radioactive elements (isotopes) to enable greener handling of radioactive materials, is one of the foundations of green radiochemistry. For example, one of the last processes in radiochemical technologies entails the regeneration of spent uranium. The problem can be radically solved by the gamma-neutron transmutation method, which complements the traditional fission process by other electron-, photon-, and neutron-physical methods, to realize a sort of circular route by which the most dangerous products of the fission process become sources of neutrons for reproducing the power generating potential of uranium, and only stable isotopes and low-activity radionuclides reach the environment. Furthermore, the use of laser isotope separation (for example, separation of the 90Sr, 137Cs, and 129I isotopes from the corresponding stable fragments Sr, Cs, and I) raises the efficiency of transmutation processes and reduces the energy spent on them. All these outcomes are in full agreement with the principles of green chemistry. The need to calculate the optimal conditions for the implementation of the described processes stimulates the determination of both energy and radiative and spectroscopic characteristics of different isotopes in a nuclear fuel, and in a variety of physical conditions, including in the presence of external electromagnetic fields. The computational methods of quantum chemical modelling are further applied for a better understanding of the processes involved. New quantum models integrating computational chemical and dynamical approaches are here presented in detail, considering the most optimal conditions for the realization of transmutation cycles, including laser photochemical separation of radioactive isotopes.

Keywords: Computational modelling of photochemical laser isotope separation, Environmental problems stemming from the production of nuclear energy, Gamma-neutron transmutation method, Green radiochemistry, Laser photochemical separation of radioactive isotopes, Prevention of radiation-related risks, Recovery and re-utilization of uranium from nuclear wastes, Regeneration of uranium from spent nuclear fuel by nuclear transmutation, Removal of long-lived radioactive waste fission products from spent nuclear fuel, Uranium circulation.

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